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Heart breaking for DS(3). What more can I do?

(91 Posts)
Thistledew Fri 12-Jun-20 23:24:42

DS age 3 is really struggling. His world has turned upside down and he hates it.

We relocated from London to my mother's house in a very rural area just before lockdown as I was due to have DD (now 8 weeks) and DS was getting really upset at being stuck in our small house and not being able to go out. So he has had the triple upheaval of lockdown, leaving our home and his baby sister arriving.

DH has to work- he is doing what he can to give DS attention when he takes breaks and before and after his working day but for most of the day has to shut himself away. DS is not keen on playing with my mother. She has limited mobility so is restricted in what she can do, and unfortunately DS seems to have transferred a lot of his upset at the move to her house onto her personally.

I'm doing what I can to give DS attention, and my mum is taking DD as much as she can, but it seems that too often I will just start an activity with DS and DD will need me for feeds or for changing or she will not settle with mum and I will have to put her in the sling. DS is trying to manage his disappointment when I can't play with him but it sometimes shows through.

He is desperately missing friends of his own age to play with. The other day a family with two young children stopped to chat to us as they were walking down the road. DS was in floods of tears when they had to leave. We've tried getting him to speak to friends on video calls but this hasn't been very successful. None of the nurseries locally are accepting new children.

We do have moments of joy when he seems really happy, often when I've managed to engage his interest in something in the garden and he has said that "I must be the luckiest kid ever", but on the whole his behaviour and attitude is deteriorating. He has regressed to grabbing and lashing out at us- for which he is sanctioned with the removal of screen time, which is a real hardship for him. It is getting increasingly hard to engage him in any activity. I try to get him to do one creative thing a day (crafts or Lego), one thing number or word based (numeracy/literacy app, treasure hunts, hopscotch, baking, pencil control etc) and as much physical activity outside as possible. However he is getting increasingly resistant to engaging in anything I propose. Today, he wasted a whole hour of time whilst DD was sleeping by screaming and shouting at me that he didn't want to do any of the activities I was proposing. DD then woke up and he was in tears that I wasn't playing with him and was doing her nappy etc. If I leave it to him to decide what to do he says he is bored. He hankers after screen time.

I do try to make a point of praising any positive behaviour and he has a reward chart at the moment to try to address some aspects of his bad behaviour.

He was mid tantrum about something this morning and just said "I just want things to go back to normal". sad

What more can I do for him?

OP’s posts: |
Quartz2208 Fri 12-Jun-20 23:29:19

Allow him to feel this way a little - we all want things to go back to normal - this isnt normal at all.

But also cut yourself some lack you made the decisions you felt were right fro your family and they are - its just a pretty difficult time for everyone.

Do all you can and allow him some little amount of screen time - these arent normal times we all need to give ourselves a break

Ginandbitterlemonplease Fri 12-Jun-20 23:30:40

I don’t really have any words of advice but I’m with you!

I have a ds who is four and he is exactly the same and I’m at my wits end with trying to juggle working from home and entertain him.
His temper is getting worse, he’s lashing out and hitting me. He is so lethargic and just can’t be bothered with anything.

Sending a lots of hugs, you aren’t alone xx

Notcontent Fri 12-Jun-20 23:32:20

Some people may not agree with this but I would remove “screen time” completely - not as a punishment, but so that it stops being an issue.

Does he like books? Could your mum read to him? That could be a good way for them to bind.

Notcontent Fri 12-Jun-20 23:33:10

Sorry - that was meant to say “good way to bond” not “bind”.

Heygirlheyboy Fri 12-Jun-20 23:38:08

Personally I would forget sanctions and rewards right now as it sounds like your DS is feeling pretty lousy and has had a lot of changes. I don't focusing on the behaviour will help but the reasons behind it, which you're very aware of. I found sitting feet up on couch while feeding and reading stories to 3yo helped greatly as did s routine morning stroll, which was good for us all and sent baby off to sleep. Acknowledge all the changes so he knows you get it. We had established Special Time each day which was a guaranteed twenty minutes of time for the two of us with no interruptions and my ds really savoured that. If baby is in sling you're hands free and I found out and about fantastic for all. Lower your standards around screen time and food, that helps!! Have boundaries of course 'I can't let you do that' and acknowledge how he might be feeling. I'm sure you're exhausted. flowers

Nix32 Fri 12-Jun-20 23:38:10

I really wouldn't push the maths/phonics stuff at the minute. He's got a another year before school, there's plenty of time. Just spend time with him, following his lead and letting him make some decisions about what you do together - give him a little bit of control in what must feel a very unsettling time.

BornOnThe4thJuly Fri 12-Jun-20 23:39:12

This sounds so difficult, I really feel for you! Would the baby sleep in the pram while you all went to the park? I think the main thing keeping my 2 year old going is loads of outdoor time. If the baby was asleep you’d still be able to concentrate on giving him the attention. The other thing that has helped a little with my youngest is swapping toys every 3/4 days, I packed away about 80% under the stairs and I swap them when the DC are in bed. They definitely play more with them now.
I’ve also been setting up obstacle courses for them with cushions etc which they enjoy.
I’ve also started having set times for screen time, which has almost completely stopped my eldest asking for the iPad. He knows he’ll be able to watch it for a bit after lunch and after tea.
If you restricted most of his screen time to something like Alphablocks/Numberblocks at least he’ll be learning something, and you won’t feel so bad letting him watch it.

BornOnThe4thJuly Fri 12-Jun-20 23:41:57

I would second not bothering with the maths and phonics for now. Unless it’s something he really enjoys. Be kind to yourself it’s hard enough with 2 so young, never mind in lockdown!

MileyWiley Fri 12-Jun-20 23:42:34

I have a for year old who is struggling here too. Combination on baby sibling being born in December, just getting into a routine and a new sense of normality and then lockdown and no playmates/ school nursery/ pre school/ nothing in March. I try my best but I've def got emerging PND and my husband works 13 hour days Monday- Friday. Huge fingers crossed she can go back to pre school on the 22nd as she needs it for her mental health.

MileyWiley Fri 12-Jun-20 23:43:27

Four year old even blush

RenegadeMrs Fri 12-Jun-20 23:50:26

Can you get him into a local playgroup or nursery? Our local one is up and running (albeit with small bubbles and many changes) and you can get 15 hours free funding at that age? Might give hime some time with kids his age?

Cornishclio Fri 12-Jun-20 23:59:13

You might be better off going home then and putting him back into his normal nursery if they will have him?

Z0rr0 Sat 13-Jun-20 00:02:30

Forget numbers and letters. He's so young. Make the little time you have together fun for both of you. Snuggle and watch TV and let him be your baby which is what he's missing. Cuddle and reassure him. Lay with him in his bed and read a story. Take the baby for a walk together so she sleeps and you can chat and pick flowers and look for bugs together. He is screaming and acting up because that's how the baby gets your attention. Explain that he's a big boy and can help you look after his baby sister and that's a very important job. Ignore the playing up but give him small responsibilities - bringing the bottle to feed her, helping to bath her, choosing her clothes. And reward him big style for any big boy behaviour.
But remember it's just a phase. It will pass.

IfOnlyOurEyesSawSouls Sat 13-Jun-20 00:15:10

Just let him be 3.

This is a really difficult time for him poor love - if you want to focus on anything at all , focus on nurturing & enriching activities.

No phonics, numbers etc etc . At the moment he needs to feel physically & psychologically safe and to have comfort from his parents.

That is all .

LoveSummerNotIcecream Sat 13-Jun-20 00:17:23

Why don’t you go home? It’s hard enough for a child having to adjust to a new baby. But he’s having to live in a different house, with a different routine, granny there all the time (I’m sure he loves her but she will undoubtedly do things differently to you). Lockdowns practically over, go home to familiar surroundings and he’ll feel much more settled.

ovenchips Sat 13-Jun-20 00:24:40

@Thistledew I would forget the structured activities for mo and when you are able to grab some time just the two of you, really concentrate on trying to get him to talk about his feelings. Bedtime is a good time especially if you can lie in dark together (easier to talk). Your role is just to reflect his feelings back, NOT to solve anything for him, NOT to express your reaction to his feelings (anger, disappointment or indeed anything positive either), to make him feel really heard, to grant him wishes in fantasy that he cannot have in reality and to also articulate difficult feelings he may be having but is not able to do so himself.

You don't have to agree with his feelings and you may not in fact feel at all comfortable that he's feeling like this, it doesn't matter - your role is to ensure that he feels that you are really hearing what he is feeling and maybe helping him label it. You don't need to tell him he's right (or wrong) to feel like this - just that you know he is having the feelings.

So, for example, when he was mid-tantrum and expressed that he just 'wants things to go back to normal' you could use that as a cue to start a conversation about his feelings. 'You were really upset yesterday' 'I could see how upset you were - things were too much for you' 'Sounds like you really wish things could go back to normal' 'You really want things to go back to how they were' 'Things are so different for you now' 'So much has changed for you, we're not at home, we're in lockdown and there's a new baby that Mummy is spending lots of time taking care of' 'I bet you feel really cross with Grandma cos we're with her when you just want to be at home' 'I bet you're upset that Mummy is having to look after the baby when you want me to be with you' 'I wish I was Aladdin and could grant you your wishes...' Plus lots of sympathetic noises 'Uh-huh' 'I can hear that you are feeling it so strongly' 'Mmmm' etc.

I think it's very much a learned skill to be able to do this kind of listening and validation of others' strong and often difficult feelings, especially as most of us were not brought up in families where this happened. And as parents, we want to make everything right for our child, we tell them 'You're all right' if they fall and don't like to hear their anger and jealousy without trying to 'correct' it.

But the listening to someone's feelings in this way is unbelievably effective and good for the child's well-being as well as strengthening the bond and trust between you.

'How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk' by Faber and Mazlish is where I first read about this approach. It's so readable, and has been fantastically useful and effective for my family. There's also a Siblings Without Rivalry book by them which may be very timely.

Best of luck to you and congratulations on arrival of your baby daughter. flowers

OntheWaves40 Sat 13-Jun-20 00:31:42

When you say screen time what do you mean? Watching tv? I think he’s too young to be on phones and tablets etc and tv time should be limited to a specific time then he knows where he’s at.

Nat6999 Sat 13-Jun-20 00:40:02

My friend's ds is 3, she also homeschools her 12 year old daughter full time. What she does is every night before going to bed set up a tray of activities for the 3 year old, things like mark making in coloured dried rice, she puts cards with letters for him to copy, number games, he loves dinosaurs & construction vehicles, she has done things with magic sand where he digs for a dinosaur & then matches them to the right picture. While he is engaged with the activity, she uses the time to work with her daughter.

UndertheCedartree Sat 13-Jun-20 00:51:47

I think you should cut all of yourselves some slack. I honestly don't think sanctions and rewards are needed at 3 years old especially when his behaviour is completely to be expected! Show him you understand things are tough and you are there for him. I also wouldn't worry about doing specific activities. Just play. If he can't decide what to do just sit down and start playing with something and see if he'll join in. Can you get him to be your 'little helper' with your baby DD? Like getting a nappy or the wipes for you? Sounds like you're doing your best and hoping things get a little easier.

Thistledew Sat 13-Jun-20 03:10:33

Thanks for all the replies. I posted and then fell asleep!

He only really gets sanctioned for aggressive behaviour such as hitting and scratching, which really does hurt when he goes for it. Other things like getting dressed in the morning or undressed for bath time are currently on his reward chart to praise when he does do what he is asked.

One aspect of his behaviour that I find really challenging is that he will not answer me when I speak to him- for example I will say "Shall we do X or Y to play?" Or offering him a couple of choices for lunch or for a snack. Or even trying to engage him in decisions about a Lego model we are building. He hears me just fine as if I then say that I will make the choice for him, he will in fact select one of the options without having them repeated. If I don't give him options he will just say no to whatever I offer and make his own choice anyway.

The literacy/numeracy thing is more for me to come up with ideas of what to do in a day. He is bright, and does enjoy the mental stimulation. I didn't say in my post but he is nearly 4 and should be starting school this September.

I'm trying to provide him with activities because he otherwise says that he is bored, or if he chooses what to play it tends to revert to something aggressive such as dinosaur battles or imaginative play that is all about fighting. We do try to allow him some play that is physically competitive such as wrestling for a rugby ball, but I don't think it is a good thing for him to be engaging in play that can result in someone getting hurt.

I do try to spend time talking about feelings but will try more to do so each day. It only works when he is calm- if I try to do it when he is having a tantrum "DS, I can see that you are angry and sad", he just shouts at me to "Stop saying that! Don't say anything!"

I do try also to reflect back to him the lovely happy things we have done each day that I have enjoyed doing with him.

Unfortunately, returning to nursery is not an option at the moment. I've been speaking today to the parents of a girl his own age who lives nearby to see if they might might be happy for them to play together. I know that it is not strictly within the lockdown rules, but if it is the only social interaction that they will have then the health risk is low, and I really think it will help DS. The thing he says most often makes him feel sad is not having any friends to play with. Frankly, this is something I'm prepared to use the Cummings excuse for and say that I'm following my instincts as a parent in the best interests of my child.

OP’s posts: |
TooSadToSay Sat 13-Jun-20 03:52:33

My 5 yo behaviour has also been unraveling- especially in the last fortnight or so. PP suggested getting activities ready the night before and I've been using this site loads: https://theimaginationtree.com

We did things like the potion making (outside) which were diverting but not cerebral. Really feel for you in this situation.

Heygirlheyboy Sat 13-Jun-20 04:24:33

Dinosaur battles where it gets aggressive is fantastic, that's his way of letting his feelings and aggression out! Encourage it! Have fun with it. 'Wow that dinosaur really got it, bang, bang! This kind of play is very typical at this age and has lots of positives. Sounds like he's trying to control a little with the not hearing it responding.

INeedNewShoes Sat 13-Jun-20 04:33:37

I'd consider going home.

DD and I combined households with my parents just before lockdown. We came home on the 1st of June. It just felt like DD needed to be in her territory and so did I, even if it meant leaving behind the huge amount of space, in the house, garden and surrounding countryside of where they live, and the company of course.

DD's behaviour was going downhill. In our case I think having my mum as an additional parent type figure to DD as well as me wasn't brilliantly helpful.

She's been able to return to nursery at home as well and this has also made a noticeable difference.

Thistledew Sat 13-Jun-20 04:59:15

Unfortunately we can't now go home as we have sold our house!

To add to DS's upheaval we had been planning a house move since September last year and we now have a buyer. We've been talking to him about making new friends up here and going to a new school, but we haven't yet broken it to him that we are never going to live in our old house again. Hence why I think it is so vital that he starts to get to know some children locally.

OP’s posts: |

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